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Can Empowerment Be Bad?
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Connect. Engage. Empower. We have heard all of these words when referring to getting in touch and involving the consumer with the brand we work for or represent. Several big brands have been very successful with that, and many brands and agencies have used those case studies as benchmarks or best practices to imitate.

Empowering the consumer is good. It's very good. We want consumers to feel like they own the product or service they buy. In consumer behavior circles, there is something called the "Ikea Effect," where people consider things to have a higher value than others when they feel like they worked hard for it or own it.

But when can empowerment backfire?

According to a report being published in the Journal of Consumer Research, it can backfire when the brand pairs empowered consumers with a targeted social media campaign. The study, done by professors from University of Calgary and University of Texas, indicates that when empowered customers get "engaged" with a social media campaign, they either ignore the opinions entirely or rebel against the campaign and offer up opposing opinions just to do it.

If a brand already has empowered consumers, why launch a campaign involving them? 

It's hard to say. But we do see it in some already loyalty-driven industries. Sports and fitness industries are good examples. Sports fans, especially the die-hards, couldn't possibly care less about social media campaigns catering to new fans or some surface-level promotion that would only get the fair-weatherers excited.

But the study brings up yet another balancing act marketers must perfect in order to not annoy the loyal and already-empowered customers while attracting customers waiting to be or looking to get empowered.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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